This is the final week of the happiness class I’ve been taking, an online course called the Science of Well-Being taught by Yale University. Although the format of the course has changed from 6 to10 weeks, the last 4 are for us to put what we’ve learned into practice on a regular basis. I and some of the students in the online community have found this part difficult because we are so stuck in our old ways of “mis-wanting” and not living in the moment. We tend to dwell on our past mistakes and regrets, or we worry and fear about the future. So it takes some real efforts to behave differently. And I can see why they added the 4 extra weeks to ensure our success in living a happier life.
To summarize what was covered last week, the 5 things that can increase our level of long-lasting happiness are kindness, social connection, time affluence, mind control, and healthy practices. Most of these almost seem like common sense, however, these are the things we often don’t choose to do. So here are a few tips to make it easier for us to do more of the things that we know are good for us.
1. Situational Support
If we can change our situation, by either increasing the visibility or accessibility, it can increase our chances of building a new habit. This aligns with one of the main goals of my work, to help my clients organize their things so they are more visible and accessible. By finding the right place to store every item in your home, it’ll set you up for more success to return items to their designated spot instead of leaving them piled up or shoving them into the cabinet. A study to test this theory showed that when you fix a bad environment such as switching out a bowl of candy or a cookie jar to a basket of fruits will over time promote healthier snacking habits.
2. Goal Setting
The more specific we can set our goals, the more likely it is that we will achieve it. This is especially true with tidying. If you start the process without imagining what the ideal outcome is when it’s complete, then you are less likely to be motivated to keep organizing. It’s important to also visualize the positive outcome as well as contrasting it to the negative outcome if you don’t reach your goal. In my client sessions, we always take before and after photos to see the dramatic change. Seeing it side by side really shocks our system, and it’s more likely the clients would not fall back to their old ways.
3. Goal Visualization
It is also important to think about what obstacles you might encounter. The mental preparation will lessen the impact of any actual problems because you have anticipated it already. You’re more likely to have success if you know you can overcome even the worse case scenario.
4. Goal Planning
Implement an “if, then” plan. Once you visualize the possible obstacle, figure out what you can do to avoid it or fix it. Having an if-then plan takes the fear out of the process and get your closer to your goal a bit easier. When a client hires an organization consultant, they are guided through the process with a plan and the added experience of the professional organizer to help overcome any hurdles.
Using these tips to help you increase happiness by doing acts of kindness for others, establish and maintain social connections, making time affluence a priority, practice mind control instead of mind wandering, and healthy practices such as goals for sleeping 8 hours and exercise regularly. And definitely use them to help you set your goal to tidy your home, visualize an organized space that supports what you love, prepare yourself for any setbacks along the way and how to overcome them.
This concludes the 6-part series of my experience in learning and practicing scientifically proven ways to live a happier life. I’m currently reading the book The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky which was referenced in my class lecture. The first chapter mentioned something that stayed in my mind, which the idea of the Pursuit of Happiness. The author says that it implies one as to chase or discover happiness, but she prefers the creation or construction of happiness. I totally agree that the power is in our hands. I’ve seen it over and over with my clients who experienced the life-changing magic of tidying up. Through their action of keeping what sparks joy, they realize the happiness was already in their possession.
I hope you have enjoyed this journey with me. I highly recommend you taking the course to get more details about each lesson. And I wish all of you a happy joyful life.